Since Jen Warden accepted the job as head coach of the CSU women’s basketball team in 2005, the Rams have only defeated two different Mountain West Conference teams during her tenure, San Diego State and Air Force.
Tonight, riding a seven-game losing streak and a 0-3 start to conference play, the Rams have a chance to turn it all around against the Air Force Falcons in Moby Arena.
CSU (2-14, 0-3) leads the all-time series with Air Force (6-10, 0-4) 29-8, including 15 wins in Fort Collins, and both teams are in dire need of their first conference victory in order to help potential seeding in the MWC tournament come March.
And despite the Rams’ recent losing efforts, they have apparently found the secret to winning in the Mountain West.
“We are starting to understand that finesse teams don’t score in conference.” Warden said, “You’ve got to attack, get to the rim and make great decisions with the ball”
But the “good decisions” have been lacking recently, especially in their loss at Texas Christian on Saturday, as 25 turnovers resulted in 22 points for the Horned Frogs, making a significant difference in CSU’s 70-52 loss.
The Rams are not the only team in tonight’s Interstate 25 rivalry that has trouble holding onto the ball, as Air Force has given opponents “free possessions” on 274 occasions this season.
One of the Falcons most prone to turning the ball over is the Academy’s star senior forward, Alicia Steele.
Steele, who is only the second Falcon in Air Force history since the program moved to NCAA Division-I to score 1,000 points in her career, leads the team 14.7 points per game, shooting 44 percent to go along with her nine boards each contest.
The Rams coaching staff has been criticized this season with its use of a zone defense that has a tendency to break down against teams who shoot well from the perimeter, but when facing a good post player like Steele, a quality zone can keep stars from shining, just like CSU’s zone did against CU-Boulder’s All-American Jackie McFarland in the first half back on Dec. 1.
Still, with a defense that looks to match up, 49 points a game against conference opponents won’t cut it without some kind of improvement from the offense, something coach Warden is hoping to see turn on.
“Our development on offense is critical to our success right now. Carine (Reimink) has to get physical inside and find her way to the hole. Juanise (Cornel) has got to make plays inside, and Emily (Neal) and Bonnie [Barbee] become more important with their ability to penetrate and score.”
Sports writer Matthew Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Air Force at CSU
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Moby Arena
TV/Radio: none/KCSU 90.5 FM
CSU (2-14, 0-3) Pos. Ht. Pts.
S. Hunter G 5-6 11.1
K. Beemer G 5-5 7.4
B. Minor F 5-10 5.9
J. Cornell F 5-10 8.3
C Reimink F 6-1 5.0
AFA (6-10, 0-4)
P. Findlay G 5-11 12.4
J. Davis G 5-7 5.1
R. Beck G 5-8 8.9
A. Steele F 6-0 14.7
K. Kreke C 6-3 5.8